WASHINGTON – Long-term U.S. mortgage rates eased this week in a housing market battered by the shutdown spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Rates hovered near all-time lows as the benchmark 30-year home loan stayed below 3.30% for the fourth straight week.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan declined to 3.24% from 3.28% last week. A year ago, the rate stood at 4.06%.
The average rate on the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage slipped to 2.70% from 2.72% last week.
Sales of existing homes plunged 17.8% in April to a 4.33 million rate, the slowest pace since 2011, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday. The normally busy spring homebuying season has been upended. At the same time, however, home prices have been rising.
Bleak data, meanwhile, continues to pour in showing the economic damage from the virus that shut down wide swaths of business and social life. The government reported Thursday that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits because of the pandemic has surged to nearly 39 million since widespread shutdowns began two months ago.
The continuing stream of heavy job cuts reflects an economy that is sinking into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated this week that the economy is shrinking at a 38% annual rate in the April-June quarter. That would be by far the sharpest quarterly contraction on record.